Look at them now.
"We're peaking at the right time," receiver Chad Johnson said.
The Bengals (8-5) have won four games in a row, moving to the forefront of the AFC wild-card race. At the moment, Cincinnati is positioned for one of the two spots, with pivotal games coming up the next two weeks at Indianapolis and Denver.
It's all coming together for a team that's piling up franchise records on offense and defense these days.
They had two 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher Sunday, a combination they never had achieved. And the defense had another record-setting performance -- Cincinnati has given up only 17 points in the last three games, another first.
The Bengals have come a long way from a 4-5 start that left them with no margin for error.
"We've been in this position for the last month," said Rudi Johnson, who ran for 117 yards. "Our backs have been against the wall. We've been coming out fighting and clawing. We definitely understand our situation."
The Raiders (2-11) understand theirs too.
It keeps getting worse.
The defense keeps them in games, and the offense gives them away. Oakland's first three drives ended this way: fumble, missed field-goal try, interception. None of it was new.
Oakland has lost six games in a row, failing to score more than 14 points in any of them. The Raiders were simply outclassed in this one.
Palmer had three passes intercepted, a season high, but did more than enough to get the win. His touchdown passes of eight yards to Chris Henry and 20 yards to T.J. Houshmandzadeh helped the Bengals pull ahead, 27-3, in the third quarter.
Atlanta 17, Tampa Bay 6 -- It doesn't seem to matter who carries for Atlanta, the Falcons usually find a way to run the ball.
The NFL's top rushing team lost Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood within a span of five plays in the third quarter, but seldom-used Justin Griffith came in to finish a 71-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown burst that helped the Falcons beat the Buccaneers at Tampa, Fla.
Dunn limped off the field because of a left calf injury after gaining nine yards to boost his season total to 997.
Norwood injured his right knee four plays later, opening the door for Griffith, who had carried only six times for 34 yards before Sunday.
Atlanta (7-6) has won two consecutive games after losing four in a row to nearly drop out of playoff contention. Tampa Bay (3-10), limited to three field goals the last two weeks, was eliminated from playoff consideration.
Philadelphia 21, Washington 19 -- Never mind that the Eagles defense let Ladell Betts run all over it and that an 18-point lead nearly disappeared in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia made big plays when it mattered and remained a solid playoff contender with a victory at Landover, Md.
Jeff Garcia completed 15 of 23 passes for 164 yards with two touchdown passes in another solid outing to improve to 2-1 as the starter since Donovan McNabb's season-ending injury. Brian Westbrook had 88 yards rushing and 38 receiving for the Eagles (7-6), who have swept the Redskins four times in the last five years.
The Redskins (4-9) have lost four of five and were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Betts, who signed a five-year, $11-million contract extension Friday, topped last week's career-high 155-yard game with 171 yards in 33 carries.
Buffalo 31, New York Jets 13 -- Willis McGahee scored on a 57-yard run, Lee Evans had a 77-yard touchdown catch and Nate Clements returned an interception 58 yards for a score for the Bills at East Rutherford, N.J.
Buffalo (6-7) looked more like a playoff contender than the Jets (7-6), winning for the third time in four games.
McGahee had 125 yards and a touchdown in 16 carries.
Minnesota 30, Detroit 20 -- Artose Pinner had career highs with 125 yards rushing and three touchdowns to lift the Vikings at Detroit.
Despite losing five of their previous six games and being under .500, the Vikings (6-7) still have a shot at the playoffs.
The Lions (2-11) have lost five consecutive games.
Pinner, who was among the final cuts Detroit made before the season, played in place of Chester Taylor, who has a rib injury.
Ruvell Martin also caught a long touchdown pass for the Packers (5-8), and Driver had nine catches for 160 yards.
Favre completed 22 of 34 passes and surpassed 3,000 yards passing for the 15th consecutive season to extend his NFL record.